Adults Bullying Children — Singaporean Parents Behaving Badly

A man walks into a classroom and slaps a 9-year-old boy for allegedly bullying his daughter. 

Now, I do not know the full story of the bullying between the children, so I cannot comment on it at this point. What I want to address is the father’s behaviour or misbehaviour. According to newspapers’ reports, the belligerent father walks into his daughter’s classroom demanding for the name of the boy who “bullied” her and that the boy come into his presence. When the boy did so, the father slapped him in front of the entire class and teacher.   Read about the story here.

Earlier this year, there were two MORE cases of parents slapping other people’s children.

In  March, another father slaps a 7-year-old boy for pinching his son’s cheeks and in July, a mother slapped her son’s classmate after he “accidentally knocked” into her son.

What is WRONG with these parents?

No matter how upset you are that your child got “bullied” or “knocked” into, confronting or slapping the child is NOT the solution. When you do so, you are exacerbating the situation and being a bully yourself. AND you are teaching your children that violence is the solution to confrontations. THAT is NOT OKAY! 

In a situation like this, your first recourse is to find out what happened between the children and address the issue with the school (teachers first, then principal) and if need be, inform the parents of the offending party.

Several years ago when my son began his primary one, there was an incident among the boys in his class. About three or four boys were playing in the classroom. Somehow, their playing progressed to a bit of rough-housing and in the process, a boy was allegedly “punched” in the chest.

When the school day ended, my son got on the school bus as he always did and waited for the rest of his schoolmates to come onboard. A grandmother charged up the bus, demanded for my son to be identified, stomped towards him and shouted in his face that he was not to touch her grandson again. This happened in front of the whole bus! The bus uncle (driver) was not able to stop this confrontational grandmother.

My 7-year-old son was visibly shaken when he got off the bus.

During lunch, I slowly probed the entire story out of him — during the rough-housing, the boys fell on top of each other. My son was at the bottom of the pile. The grandson was still punching and pushing at him. There were hands and feet everywhere. My son gave a shove so that he could get out from under the pile, and that is when the “punch in chest” landed.

I called the teacher immediately to find out more about the incident in class. She collaborated my son’s story of the boys’ rough-housing in class and that she had addressed it with the boys. When I told her about the incident on the bus, she was shocked and agreed that the grandmother should not have confronted my son and said she would immediately speak to the parents of the boy.

While I received a follow up from the teacher that she had addressed the issue with the parents, I did not receive any apologies from the boy’s parents or grandparents. I did instruct my son that if the grandmother or any adult confront him, he should let me know immediately and that I and his father will be there to support him. Many months after the incident, I met the grandmother and she smiled and tried to make small talk with me. But still no apologies.

As the school year carried on, there were many issues with the grandson. He was socially awkward with his classmates and had trouble assimilating in school. Many of his classmates (boys and girls) would not play with him. I was very proud that my son tried to include the grandson in play as much as he could without sacrificing his own social standing. I also heard from the form teacher that the grandson was often scolded and caned at home for being “naughty”.

Personally, I don’t think the grandson is naughty at all. He is a bit of a handful, but I felt it had more to do with the home environment and the adult role models in his life. I want to highlight TWO points for the adults here.

1) Acting like bullies is NOT THE SAME as protecting our kids from or teaching them about bullies!

I have to share that I was furious when I heard about the grandmother. In my heart was a lion’s rage! If you think a woman’s scorn is bad, you should fear the mother’s wrath of a hurt cub. I was concern about the psychological and emotional impact the confrontation had on my son. 

I wanted to lash out at the grandmother and give it back to her the same way she behaved with my son. But what would that achieve? 

It was not easy being rational. But I am glad that I kept calm and behaved like an adult during this episode. If I had to cite an adult/parenting moment that I am proud of, this would be it.

2) NOT correcting your child’s bullying behaviors is THE SAME as advocating bullies. 

Since that incident, I have spoken to my kids about bullies, their behaviours and how to deal with it. What breaks my heart is that many parents in schools are unconsciously reinforcing bullying in school.

Here are some common bully tactics that primary school children employ:

  • Being bossy and forcing others to do things that they don’t want to do.
  • Hitting or slapping somebody
  • Calling names —derogative, unkind or joking
  • Taking or breaking other people’s property and taking no responsibility for it.
  • Not including or “allowing” others to play

It bothers me that many parents are OKAY with their children behaving in the above manner. They do not see being bossy as bullying. Their rationalize it as assertiveness and claims that it is better their children are the aggressor than the ones being bullied.

When their children break or take other kids’ properties, these parents do not enforce an apology or refund of the broken property. Hence, there is no consequence to their kids’ behaviours and the kids are not motivated to change. What really irks me is the “fake” stony look on these parents’ faces when confronted with the broken properties, that says “I am not going to pay.”

And finally, the motherload of all bully — exclusion or queen bee syndrome. What is this you ask?

This is a power tool that mean girls like to use. The Queen Bee (usually the most popular girl in class) will tell her “pack” to not friend a particular girl over silly notions like she does not like the same colour or have the same stuff as them. The outcast is not allowed to play with them and excluded from social activities like recess, birthday parties or playdates.

This is a very psychologically and emotionally hurtful tactic. Since there is no physical hurt, many parents think that this is not bullying. Also, they tend to chalk it down as a “kids phase” they will outgrow or the prerogative of friendship. I have heard girls as young as primary one (7-year-old girls) use this method to bully. And if they are not corrected at a young age, the bullying becomes more serious as they mature.

I spoke to a mother of a victim whose daughter (in upper primary) is being ostracized and picked on just because she is doing well in school. It is very worrisome and heartbreaking for the parents of these victims because they have to send their girls into an unfriendly territory everyday.

At the end of the day, our kids have to learn to be tough. What is tougher is being an adult and doing the right thing even if that is the last thing we wish to do. None of us (parents) wish to see our kids being bullied. So, let’s not role model that for them.

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Meiling Wong

Meiling is a Singaporean mom who loves spending time with her 2 kids until they ditch her for slime-making and digital gaming. These days, she keeps herself busy trying to keep up with the social media while still contemplating if she should learn how to play "Clash Royale".

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